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October 29, 2015
What Marketers Can Learn From Cicero
 
Marketing professionals sometimes get a bad rap for not doing their due diligence when it comes to professional development or even from learning from the past. In fact, it is not just AdLand that suffers from a history gap, it is many Americans.

So, as lovers of history, we decided to dig back into the archives to revive a piece of literature and advice that is supposedly* written by Quintus Tullius Cicero, the younger brother of Marcus Cicero, a man who was running for and won the Roman Consulate in 64 BC.

Yes, way back.

We like bringing attention to writings from long ago to bring the point home that nothing that we do now is new. Though the technology and the methods may be new, the overall reasons or goals for the messages haven't changed for thousands of years.

Quintus Cicero has been given credit for writing "On Running for the Consulship" (English translation), which describes how his brother, who was already a senator, should run his consul campaign. Whether it was truly written by him or it was an academic or rhetorical exercise doesn't negate the interesting and relevant points the essay brings out in creating, maintaining, and elevating a brand. 

Tip #1: Use "new" to your advantage.
Too many times, brands are shoved back because they are "unproven" or "untested." Forget that. If your brand is new to the market, or is introducing a new product, position the newness not as a disadvantage but as an opportunity for the consumer to get acquainted and perhaps even be more satisfied by the offering.

Tip #2: Be aware of competitors and businesses around you.
As flattering as Quintus was toward Marcus, he made sure that his brother knew that although others may be nice to him, those same people could be plotting his downfall or even building a counter campaign. The same can be true in marketing; though a different company could shower your brand with praises, the next month you could find yourself being sued or having to compete against that same brand. Like Marcus Cicero, don't frown upon praise, but don't let it sink in. Continue to build the best brand and product you possibly can.

Tip #3: Be choosy of your associations; find and retain loyal followers.
This tip followed right after Quintus's warning to be aware of your competitors and businesses surrounding you. Good associations for his brother would help him rise from a senator to a Roman Consul. Quintus saw that Marcus had already known several prominent, positive people. Quintus simply made sure that his brother took advantage of those relationships, whether the bonds were from family, friends, or work.

Don't we in AdLand see that too? The name of the game for many brands is that of strategic partnerships. For example, Doritos and Taco Bell hit a grand slam, and they will be benefitting from that partnership for years to come. TBWA/Chiat/Day and Apple had a wonderful relationship. The Martin Agency and GEICO. W+K and Nike. These partnerships maintained a strong brand image and a strong strategic vision for what the brand can do, could do, and will do.

Tip #4: Protect your reputation.
Quintus's goal was to make sure his already successful brother ran a great campaign for consul. The other four tips could be masterfully done, but if Marcus had a misstep and damaged his reputation in one situation, he could kiss the consul seat goodbye. Thankfully, Marcus took the advice. He must have avoided situations in which his character, judgment, or morals could have been seen as reproachable. If Marcus was going to be consul, he needed to show that he had the mental toughness in order to judge, keep order, and be a resource for his citizens.

Like Cicero, brands must protect their reputation. Consumers get so much information about brands and products that one slip-up or miscue could cause a lot of damage for a company. Look at VW, for example. Rebuilding the public's trust may take a while (though probably not as long as people think). But why test the setback in consumer trust if your brand can avoid that in the first place? Do good business, advertise honestly, and give the consumer a heartfelt reason to buy, and your brand is going to be successful.

Quintus' brother became a Roman consul. Your brand can win its target market and maybe even the industry if you follow the right steps.

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Dwayne W. Waite Jr. is partner and principal at JDW: The Charlotte Agency, a marketing and advertising shop in Charlotte, NC. He enjoys consumer behavior, economics, and football.
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